In the latest sign of the uneven state of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, a slew of countries in the Asia-Pacific region are rushing to impose restrictions on movement to contain surging cases, a full year and a half into a pandemic that many had originally handled deftly.
Thailand is introducing a seven-hour nightly curfew, South Korea is introducing curbs in capital Seoul and Vietnam is locking down after setting fresh records for daily case numbers or deaths this week. Indonesia has had to source emergency oxygen supplies from neighboring Singapore as it struggles with shortages, the Associated Press reported.
Elsewhere, Africa suffered its worst week of the crisis to date in the seven-day period through July 4, recording more than 251,000 new COVID-19 cases, or a 20% increase over the previous week and 12% leap from the peak in January, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Some 16 African countries are in resurgence, with Malawi and Senegal joining the list. The delta variant has been detected in 10 of those countries, said the agency.
“The end to this precipitous rise is still weeks away,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “Cases are doubling now every 18 days, compared with every 21 days only a week ago. We can still break the chain of transmission by testing, isolating contacts and cases and following key public health measures.”
The surge in cases is mostly due to the highly transmissible delta variant, which has become the dominant strain in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.63% and German partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.69% said they are now developing a booster shot that will specifically target the delta variant with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Pfizer intends to ask regulators in the coming weeks to approve distribution of the booster.
“While we believe a third dose of BNT162b2 has the potential to preserve the highest levels protective efficacy against all currently known variants including delta, we are remaining vigilant and are developing an updated version of the Pfizer-COVID-19 vaccine that uses a new construct based on the B.1.617.2 lineage, first identified in India and also known as the delta variant,” the companies said in a statement.
They also pointed to evidence from the Israeli Ministry of Health showing the effectiveness of the vaccine declined six months after the shots, just as the delta variant is taking hold in the country.
The CDC and Food and Drug Administration issued a joint statement saying fully vaccinated Americans “do not need a booster shot at this time,” but that they are prepared for booster doses “if and when the science demonstrates they are needed.”
Pfizer also said it plans to share clinical data for its experimental COVID-19 booster shot in August , compared with an original plan to share them in July and apply for an emergency use authorization that same month.
President Joe Biden continues to push for more Americans to get vaccinated as the program continues to stall. The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that 158 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, equal to 47.7% of the population. That means they have received two shots of the Pfizer of Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +2.53% vaccines, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ +0.44% one-dose regimen. The AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +1.08% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN +1.76% vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.
Among adults 18-years-and-older, 58.5% are fully vaccinated and 67.3% have received at least one dose, falling short of Biden’s plan to have 70% of adults fully inoculated by last week’s July 4 holiday.
But the rate of vaccination continues to vary widely from state to state, and many, especially in the South, have vaccinated less than 30% of their populations, including Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi. Cases are rising in some areas with low vaccination rates and overall cases are up 39% from where they were two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker.
Vaccination rates also vary widely in the rest of the world, according to data company Our World in Data, showing lower-income countries in particular, lagging as they await vaccine supplies.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 185.6 million on Friday, while the death toll climbed further above 4.01 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University .
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 33.79 million cases and in deaths with 606,483.
India is closing in on the U.S. in cases at 30.75 million but is third in deaths at 405,939, while Brazil is second in deaths at 530,179 but is third in cases at 18.96 million.
Mexico has fourth-highest death toll at 234,458 but is 15th in cases with 2.6 million.
In Europe, Russia leads in deaths with 138,441 fatalities, while the U.K. has 128,601, making Russia the country with the fifth-highest death toll in the world and highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,993 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.